pushcart nominations and more!

With only two weeks left of the semester, it feels like the perfect time to write an update.

Within the last couple weeks, I received news that I had been nominated two different times for the Pushcart Prize, once by Gimmick Press and once by Sweet Tree Review. I’m so excited to represent small literary magazines/presses in particular. I’m aware, of course, that it’s not a particularly high honor unless one actually makes the shortlist or wins. I’m currently thinking about how to balance feeling good about my nominations with the knowledge that they don’t mean much by themselves in the long run. I’m not yet sure how this balance is to be achieved; despite my nonbinary gender and nonbinary philosophical bent, I’m very much a black-and-white person.

Speaking of growth, I want to briefly sing the praises of another class I’m taking, called Narrative Medicine: How Writing Can Heal. Not only has my writing –– especially my ‘personal essay’ writing –– improved technically since I started the class, but that class also gave me a more concrete toolkit for addressing life experiences I have yet to narrativize for myself. All history is narrative, and, in a sense, fiction; what is “legitimate history” is more a question of whose narrative gains dominance, rather than adherence to an arbitrary standard of objectivity. Objectivity is used all too often to mask what’s really a white supremacist, patriarchal, abled, etc. point of view. It’s used as the only way to advance a highly specific way of perceiving reality as the singular truth. More people are realizing the dangers of such hegemonic perspectives that are wildly discordant with the material lives of subjugated groups of people –– for example, the dismissal of sexual assault survivors’ stories in favor of the perpetrators’.

Narrative Medicine has given me the opportunity to write a final paper on Virginia Woolf’s essay On Being Ill, which I’ve talked incessantly about to many people close to me (because that’s what happens when I discover something I’m into). For anyone who, like me, was taken by Woolf’s biting critique of the medico-psychiatric system and its abuse and neglect toward patients in Mrs. DallowayOn Being Ill is a must-read. My edition has an introduction from Hermione Lee, who shares that Woolf was actually sick in bed while writing the essay. This in and of itself helps prove one of her main theses: that conceiving of The Writer as rational, cerebral, and divorced from the messiness of the body is limiting and inaccurate. I weave my own personal experience into my analysis of the text, which is reflective of the feminist turn in literary analysis which began decades ago. I argue that Woolf did it too –– albeit in the 1920s and 30s –– and her bold discussion of trauma, disability, patriarchy, and hegemonic “rationalism” paved the way for more identifiable feminist criticism.

In other word-news, last week, I also got the opportunity to read a short story aloud at a small open mic at MHC. It was a lot scarier than I thought it would be, as I’m not usually so afraid of speaking in front of people. I had a small identity crisis following that experience: who am I if I can’t even get up and speak confidently in front of an audience the way that I used to? I’m still not sure where the sudden barrage of anxiety that day came from, all I know is that I was shaking so hard as I read that I thought I was going to fall over. I’m still thinking hard about why the sudden change in my public speaking self-confidence occurred. Let me know if you have any insight. Regardless, I’m really glad I did it, as many of my friends and classmates, as well as professors, were there, and they all gave me positive feedback. That always feels good. I’m thankful for having chosen to take creative writing as a class this semester, as that class was the reason I learned about the open mic, and the reason for much of my recent growth as a writer in general.

In the last week-and-a-half before break, it feels like everyone is trying to squeeze in as many events as possible. This is partially also because Hanukkah is happening this week and I’ve been trying to go to the various celebrations our Jewish Student Union has been hosting. Several days ago, on the first night of Hanukkah, I learned to play dreidel, which was great fun! Tonight I hope to listen to some Klezmer music; I’ve loved it since an online friend of mine introduced me to The Klezmatics. I’m looking forward to hopefully listening to some Klezmer live!

Lastly, I’d like to update you regarding the progress I’ve made on my “project” which I’m refusing to call a “novel” (even saying the word “novel” makes me cringe). I’m at a little over 30,000 words / 100-ish pages. I’ve implemented a writing strategy that’s been effective for me before, namely to write at least a little of that project every day, even if it’s only one line. I wrote a novella when I was fifteen and used this strategy to keep up with it, and happily, I think I’m soon going to surpass the length of that work in writing this new, more sophisticated project. Every day, I fear that yesterday’s idea was my last good one, and this whole project is going to go down the drain, but so far, I’ve been able to continue. Scary as it is, I think this constant state of insecurity is also important in that it’s humbling.

I’ll try to post again around my birthday, which is in exactly two weeks. I’ll be 20! If all goes according to plan, I’ll be able to go to Barnes and Noble that day, my favorite activity. Talk to you soon!


 

ETA: I didn’t have the spoons to attend the Klezmer concert, but did spend some quality time supervising the menorahs until they burnt out and then having dinner with friends.

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midterms

I awoke this morning to a Facebook notification: a friend had mentioned me in the comments of an article about Ned Lamont’s victory in the Connecticut midterms. It was, as the pros say, “a close one,” and by no means the only such election last night. I almost feel that the anxiety I felt last night was greater than the anxiety I felt in 2016, although I believe this is mostly due to my shock and horror at the presidential election results stopping me from truly feeling anything at all. This time I didn’t feel as though my self had left my body; I was firmly planted in my skin and thus able to feel all the terror that had two years ago been more closed off to me.

Another difference between this election and the last was that I was able to vote in this one. In 2016, despite being functionally no different from my eighteen-year-old peers, I was not permitted to vote due to my age. It’s horrifying to think about how many young people –– not just sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, but true children –– have been and will be impacted by the Trump administration and have no “democratic” way to express their grievances. Voting is by absolutely no means the pinnacle of political action (if anything, it’s a starting point, and even then its ultimate effectiveness is questionable at best) but the fact that the very same kids at risk of immediate death by school shooting, or prolonged death by starvation or lack of health care, have no official voice against such mortal threats is despicable. Not to mention the countless immigrants and refugees barred from having a say in things like, you know, whether or not they’re separated from the infants they’re still breastfeeding.

I’m no believer in the democratic process; u.s. elections are farcical given that neither major party will allow a candidate to enter the political arena to challenge the wider social order; no system that seeks self preservation will enable the population to dismantle it via “playing by the rules.” In fact, we’ve seen that the ruling class actively prefers clearly-illegal actions that preserve white supremacist, imperialist capitalism to legitimate democratic principles.

For a class, I’m examining fascism, and in particular the ways in which capitalist liberal democracy can so easily birth fascism once in crisis. Given that, I feel the need to point out that fascist governments have been and will continue to be democratically elected. I will note that a population subjugated under capitalism and deprived from the fruits of their labor has and will continue to unite based on false ideas of [racial; national] “unity” in order to recover the selfhood they have been forced to sell to their bosses. I will remind you that the “other” is a far more convenient figure to fear than the rich person who looks just like you. I’ll remind you that the violent divisions by race, gender, and nation that underpin the fascist state, whose goal is the eradication of “the other” by total war, were specifically created to delineate types of labor to different groups of people and to stymie groups’ effort to unify against the capitalist class.

Of course, none of this goes away when elections “go our way,” either. We should have been having this conversation if the democrats had won the senate, too; we should have been having this conversation if Hillary or even Bernie had won. With a more friendly-faced administration in power, less people would probably have read that paragraph with seriousness. It appears that the unignorable-even-by-wealthy-whites Trump administration has opened the privilege to more “radical” possibilities, even if those possibilities are permitted to applying for a protest permit, walking around with a sign, and thanking the cops for supervising your ‘protest’ once it’s over. I don’t think this administration was “worth” the pain it causes so many, but if nothing else, I’m glad people are actually responding with some teeth.

At the end of the day, I’ve seen a lot of hot air blown from different news sources I follow. Some of those further to the left, usually more ideologically in line with me, seemed to tend toward the “I’m not voting because democracy is a sham” camp. Some people with similar political views with the former group, such as myself, continue to vote while simultaneously expressing our rage and disillusionment with a system designed to keep the ruling class in power. Others, unfortunately, go in the other direction, and valorize voting in a way entirely disproportionate to its real effects. As usual, I see a great grey in-between. I’m certainly not a “patriot”, nor am I a nihilist.

Now that I’ve voted in a primary and a major election, I feel I can say that I consider voting in elections to be a form of harm-reduction. I consider voting to be a responsibility for those who can, not because we’re going to vote ourselves into some imaginary “perfect america” but rather because what little we can control with the vote, we should, since those who are most impacted are also barred from voting. In the weeks leading up to the elections, I saw a bit of buzz among leftists online about the idea of donating one’s vote to an incarcerated or otherwise disenfranchised person if uncomfortable personally participating in the process. That would mean speaking to a prisoner and asking them how they would vote, and then voting in their stead at the polls. I would really recommend this method in the future to those who “didn’t want to get involved with” voting this time around.

We’ve seen some token improvements, some close saves, and we have breathed signs of relief at a re-won House even while disappointed by other races both local and national. I think I speak for many of us when I say we also breathe a sigh of relief that this election season is over, at least until the (oh, god) presidential election activities start up for 2020, which looms uncomfortably close.

critical disability spongebob (really)

This post was inspired by a riveting conversation I had with Claire Houston about a week ago. I first brought up a “critical disability analysis of Spongebob Squarepants” as a joke, but then quickly realized that one of the wildly popular show’s best episodes –– Tea at the Treedome (S1) –– is perhaps the best conveyance of the social model of disability and solutions to access barriers other than “cure” I have ever seen on childrens’ television.

If you’ve forgotten the plot to this iconic episode, I’d like to direct you to Spongepedia for a full description. The part of this episode I am going to focus on is that which occurs while and after Spongebob meets Sandy Cheeks, a squirrel and proud Texan who is fairly new to Bikini Bottom.

Sandy’s air helmet is a conspicuous reminder of the fact that Bikini Bottom exists under water –– something the show as a whole allows us to forget, as all of its characters can live safely below. Sandy, a native to land, not sea, throws into focus the basic condition of Bikini Bottom life, a condition that other characters have no need to acknowledge. To them, living surrounded by water is as normal as breathing air is to mammals. It is only the existence of people who are unable to breathe underwater without assistive tech (like a helmet) that reminds us that our everyday conditions are based on a limited, exclusionary definition of normalcy.

When encountering difference, our beloved sponge behaves better, I would say, than the average able-bodied (so-to-speak) person (also so-to-speak). He immediately understands that the fact that he’s not sure what to make of Sandy’s equipment is on him, not on Sandy. Although it may have been wiser for him to politely ask what “air” was instead of pretending to know what it was in order to impress the squirrel, young viewers of the show receive an important model for interaction with people who are different from oneself. That is, one of polite curiosity and openness to learning as opposed to studied ignorance.

The implicit “temporary” in Spongebob’s able-bodied status reveals itself once he enters the Treedome, Sandy’s air-filled home*. He is only “able” to move through his watery world as a normal, “healthy” individual when surrounded by water –– something he didn’t even notice before realizing Sandy needed to breathe air. As he slowly dries up, he feels an implicit pressure to “suck up” (he’s a sponge, so the pun is a little bit intended) his pain and fake normalcy. In our world and in Spongebob’s capitalism’s insatiable demands for productivity encourage this behavior both inside and outside of the work environment. Spongebob feels he has no other choice than to pretend to be okay –– even if that means suffering irreparable bodily harm, or even risking death –– as he’s never lived under social conditions in which it’s acceptable to admit to being not okay. This is only further suggested by his unflinching devotion to the Krusty Krabs, his place of employment.**

He is only “able” to move through his watery world as a normal, “healthy” individual when surrounded by water –– something he didn’t even notice before realizing Sandy needed to breathe air.

When Spongebob finally decides he can no longer take a moment without water, he drinks the water from a vase of flowers and calls himself a “quitter” for having done so. Like Spongebob, disabled people, especially those who have become disabled, feel compelled to understand themselves as “quitters” or “not trying hard enough.” Spongebob isn’t simply drinking the water because he isn’t trying hard enough to breathe air, though: he physically cannot, and no amount of effort will make him able to breathe oxygen like Sandy, a squirrel, can. Soon after, when Patrick enters the Treedome (thinking that Sandy’s physical differences from himself and Spongebob have scared Spongebob off) he begins to dry up as well: realizing that it was nothing inherent in Sandy that bothered Spongebob, but instead the fact that Spongebob had been rendered disabled by a change in physical environment as well as social environment (insofar as he was too embarrassed to ask Sandy for water and felt like a failure for drinking from her vase).

The resolution of this brief episode is a brilliant message for child and adult viewers alike: instead of Spongebob, Patrick, and Sandy letting their differences stop them from spending time with each other, they work together to develop more assistive devices to accommodate all of them. Sandy brings Spongebob and Patrick water-filled helmets so that they can safely spend time in the Treedome, without judging either of them for not being able to breathe air. Likewise, Sandy’s use of an oxygen helmet outside the Treedome is completely normalized after this episode, to the extent that, as a child and viewer of the show, I was rarely consciously reminded of how “weird” it was for a squirrel to live underwater.

Ultimately, this episode suggests that neither Sandy’s inability to breathe underwater nor Spongebob’s inability to live outside the water without drying up are problems inherent to their respective bodies. They’re simply evidence of the disabling conditions of inaccessible environments. The lesson provided in that short, eleven-minute episode could be applied to understanding dyslexic kids who use audio over the printed word, or hard-of-hearing kids who use transcripts of things other students listen to. By applying the logics of this episode to everyday situations, the opportunity is created to see differences normal, even essential parts of a happy life.

Furthermore, and most importantly, it provides disabled kids a medium through which to understand disability that neither fixates on its negative aspects nor pushes “treatment” as the only solution. If Spongebob and Sandy can solve access barriers without changing their bodies and minds, so too can disabled people as we move through the real world.


*This is a contested term, but useful for my purposes.

**Although outside the scope of this particular post, the way Spongebob’s religious devotion to his job as a fry cook is played for laughs is an example of the subtle and subversive possibilities that exist on children’s TV.

roundup: classes, books, and even an event

Long time no blog. As it’s been longer-than-usual since I’ve written an update, I’m going to go right into a roundup. The fall is here; I’ve actually shivered several times in the last few days; school is finally becoming as rhythmic as sleeping or breathing, and fall break is (I know!) less than two weeks away.

Although I’m excited to return home for a few days (mostly for the easy access to free food and coffee, as well as the opportunity to do several loads of free laundry) I’m also buzzing with excitement at my thesis/CST focus plans. More on that later, I think, once I iron out more details and increase my confidence in the subject; today’s particular bout of excitement stems from my beginning the book “Black on Both Sides” by C. Riley Snorton. A professor whom I hope will help advise me in my thesis process highly recommended it to me, and now that I’ve recently finished an “academic-style” book, space has opened up in my brain and bookshelf to begin this one. I’m particularly taken with the idea of “double-transness,” or the idea of being TGNC while also embodying a critique of the cis vs. trans “binary” (or the hegemonic idea of proper transition/transness). Have you ever met a term that, when you see or hear it, it fills you up like a pot of soup? That’s how it felt for me, sitting in the dining hall last night. Like steam was coming out of my head, in a good way. It could also have been the vegan split pea soup I had, one of my favorite staples of Superblanch cuisine. I think it was the term, though, that really satisfied me that night.

As for other classes: I adore Political Ecology. I do. It’s nice to be in a class where I have the background knowledge; the advantage: it’s nice to see a class of predominantly STEM majors learning that the humanities and social sciences can be challenging and out of one’s depth. Too often I see a dismissal of the complexity of “soft” (read: feminized) disciplines among physics, chemistry, mathematics, etc. students. At a place like Mount Holyoke, which caters specifically to the needs of students of marginalized genders, we should really know better –– but the misogynistic attitudes that privilege STEM over other fields is everywhere. That’s my roundabout way of saying that understanding Marx and Hegel, and seeing that people with other specialties have something to learn feels really damn good. Especially after an entire childhood of feeling stupid and inferior to others because math has been difficult for me.

Onto Chinese: I think this image really sums up my recent experiences with the course!

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“always pourin one out for the int’l students and other english language learners but especially tonight….just finished a dinky little 2-page paper for my chinese 300 class and it was fucking exhausting (and it wasn’t even complex!). but you all are out here writing 20 pg papers in your second, third, fourth, etc. language. that’s fucking brilliant and i see you.”

Truly, I’m so grateful to be taking Chinese as I’m also working and learning as a SAW mentor. I’ll probably never know what it’s like to be so heavily immersed in and required to meet certain expectations of my second language, both because I’ve never done a language immersion study abroad program, and because of u.s. imperialism and the global domination of English.

As I finish up this blog post, I’m sitting in Superblanch after having taken my skip day for a Walking for Fitness session because of the torrential rain. I hope to update this blog after the Northampton Print & Book Fair, happening this Sunday, which I’m extremely excited to attend. Last year was my first time going, and even though I was alone and had no idea what to expect, I had a wonderful time and picked up, among other things, a copy of jubilat, a screen-printed t-shirt, and a patch that now adorns one of my jackets. This year I anticipate to go with friends and now know enough to be more excited for the event –– perhaps even eyeing it as a possible space to distribute zines of my own one day!

the first couple days

Hi all, this is my very first blog post from South Hadley and I am thrilled to be back. I’ve had numerous people ask me, “wouldn’t you rather be in Amsterdam?” Although when I listened to a podcast the other day on which a Dutch person was speaking, I felt a little empty ache where Amsterdam used to be in me (or I in it), I’m happier here than I was there. No shade to Amsterdam; I just prefer routine.

I moved back in on Saturday, 9/01, a day before most of the returning students at MHC, and I’m always extremely grateful for my early move-in accommodation with AccessAbility (AAS). I’m also happy to continue my tradition of speaking openly about being registered with AAS. Perhaps it does nothing, but I’d like to think it’s a reminder to all the ~normal~ people on campus that, surprise! The Disabled Are Just Like You!  Not to mention that it’s a reminder to the other registered students that there are tons of us registered, and that it’s nothing to hide.

On Sunday, while everyone else moved in, I spent an enjoyable morning at Thirsty Mind, the coffeeshop* across the street. So far, I’m feeling pretty good about meeting all my obligations this month, despite the ridiculous busyness of these next two weeks. Part of this, I think, has to do with my decision not to pursue registration in a course I originally wanted to get into: Critical Psychology. It seems perfectly suited to me, and it’s at another college in the consortium of which Mount Holyoke is a part. If I had gotten in already, I’m positive I’d keep the class, but it was full by the time I tried to register. Back then I was convinced I would do what I’ve done for several other classes: email the professor and act intelligent and put-together (which I did) and then come to the class looking extremely eager, ultimately stealing the spot of a less-eager counterpart (which I’m not doing).

I had reservations about Critical Psychology from the start, even when I was sure I wanted to be in it. The varieties of people one might find in a class like this can include Thomas Szasz-types and orthodox psych-majors who hope this class will be another place for them to study the fascinating crazies or talk authoritatively about biochemistry concepts they’ve never actually learned. I also trust very few professors to teach a class like this with fairness, compassion, and respect –– let alone a professor whose reputation I didn’t know.

Why, then, would I take a class whose material I, between lived experience and independent study, likely already know; when taking it necessitates more energy than the class’s substance likely deserves? I had no answer to this, four other classes, and several jobs. So, no Critical Psychology.

I’m extremely excited about my other classes, though. I’m taking third year Chinese this year, after initially signing up for it as a first-year, when I was woefully behind in the character-writing part of my study of Chinese. I feel a sense of pride now that I’ve dug up the textbooks I bought two years ago and cried over, now no longer insurmountable.

I am taking Political Ecology this semester, too. I spoke with a friend briefly about this; I assumed that it would be an anarchist-leaning class because of the relationship between the eco/philosophical concept of the rhizome and the spontaneous revolutionary acts that feature so heavily in some anarchist strands. My friend told me, though, that the professor of this course actually had more of a Marxist bent, so I’m hopeful that I’ll get to learn a Marxian perspective on political ecology that might help me develop my own argument and opinions for anarchism. Maybe I’ll even incorporate some of his beliefs into my own politics. I’m excited that I don’t know things. I’m excited to learn. I’m even excited to be corrected and “proven wrong.”

I’m also taking a course on Narrative Medicine, the first session of which is this evening. I’m not entirely sure what I’m getting into with this class, but it looks very promising. On a similar note, the other class that I’m taking this semester is creative writing –– like this past summer, it looks like my fall semester is going to be creative writing-heavy. Despite the amount of “creative writing” I do, I’ve never actually taken a formal class on it. Recently I’ve been craving outside perspectives on my work, and have been trying to become more comfortable with showing my work to others before it’s been published –– that is, approved by some outside “authority”. I liken this to the stress others feel about disclosing disability (or transness!) without “formal diagnosis”.

I return to the middle of this blog post after a day, as my writing time was abruptly cut short by the fact that I realized I lost my lanyard and needed to go on a wild, sweaty search for it. The search was relatively brief, because some kind stranger left it for me at the info desk in Blanchard. Later, a friend drove me to pick up my course pack and to drop me off for what I thought was my first session of Narrative Medicine: but as it turned out, I had misread the schedule. My seminar was actually only on Thursdays, not Tuesdays too: I was heartbroken when I found that out, not because I desperately wanted the class that day but because it felt like one more thing that had gone wrong on a warm and exhausting day.

I took the bus back to Mount Holyoke as the sky darkened and the air cooled, willing myself to cry as I listened to Against Me! (as I always do when I’m upset). I had dinner with my co-editor for the Mount Holyoke News, Kate, and together we went to see Christina Henriquez discuss her novel “The Book of Unknown Americans.” Between dinner and the talk, and some unexpected positivity from my friends (who always seem to know what I need, even when they had no idea at the time that I was in a bad mood!) my evening improved beyond what I could have imagined.

That leaves me here today, Wednesday, my first actual day of classes. On my agenda is not only classwork and my work-study jobs, but also my “What’s Your Story?” zine (the proof of which I finished this morning!) my wrap-up work with my internship at Not Dead Yet, and my personal creative writing pursuits, which I really hope won’t fall by the wayside as the year carries on. I think I have a good chance of continuing to work on those projects, especially because I’m taking creative writing this semester.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll continue to follow along with my posts –– and that I’ll have the wherewithal to keep posting in the first place –– now that I’m back at MHC!


*Actual coffeeshop, not the Amsterdam kind.

A white & brown hobbit house, in front of which a woman washes and hangs linens to dry. Trees surround it all.

et tu, cottagecore?

Recently, you’ve probably noticed cottagecore-related content, especially on Tumblr. As someone who already has a deep devotion to farm animals (especially sheep), mushrooms, and cabin-homes stuffed with knickknacks, the cottagecore aesthetic was and is one I gravitate toward. It’s easy to scroll mindlessly through blog after gentle, peaceful blog; reblogging jars of honey and golden sunlight and teddy bears and picnic baskets; right alongside assorted farm animals and wide, vast vegetable gardens. It’s impossible for me not to project myself onto their hazy, golden façades (literally!) and feel, for a moment, like that picture is my life. Unfortunately, I recently met with the reality undepicted in those images, and had to confront the practicality of my dreams, the genuineness of my desires.

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In the background, a blurry pastoral scene of grass, flowers, and weeds as well as a wire fence sit in the afternoon light. In the foreground, a sticky pot of honey is ladled, so as to keep some honey suspended in the air to reflect the sun’s light.

I’m already a person prone to planning for a future that could only exist several decades from now. Ever since I was a child, I knew I wanted children of my own, and spent much of my childhood paging through thousand-page baby name books, making lists that I was sure would turn to children. Soon, plans for my perfect home emerged, too: usually a tiny house on the beach or in the woods or in a field whose endpoints can’t be seen from my someday-home’s window. It was always a pastoral scene that never seemed to get so far as to ask, “how do I get my groceries?” I suppose I’d grow all of those, though I think veggie burgers and chewing gum would be difficult to grow on trees.

Aside from the limits of my hypothetical trees, there are numerous other flaws in my dreamy future plans. As someone whose hypersensitivity to noise and need for personal space gains them access to a single room in college, thanks to AccessAbility Services, I sincerely doubt I’d do well living with a wife and kids in a sub-1,000 sq. ft. space in the middle of nowhere. Just a hunch.

In addition, my dream almost always includes me helping to design and supervise the construction of my tiny home. Where will I get the money for this? On whose wide stretch of land will I be allowed to plant my home? These questions, too, remain unanswered. As someone in a relationship, and as a Capricorn Moon & Venus, thinking about and sharing my dreams for a future with the one I love feels like the ultimate sign of devotion. It’s not so much the content of the dream, it’s the idea that there is one. But ever since the beginning of this month, I’ve been wondering just how much real, practical thinking is required for the dreams I want (or do I?) to bear fruit, and how aesthetics seem to be altogether hijacking my dreams.

Of the many things I was excited to do with my partner, Kayla, I was perhaps most excited to visit a farm with them. The farm represented an aspect of our theoretical future that we loved and love to discuss: oh, the animals we’d care for! The love we’d have for them! The endless space in which they could run and play! The mass numbers of Instagram accounts catering so specifically to my dreams of animal-parenthood only furthered this desire. The reason I follow so many (almost 600) accounts on Instagram is that many of them are about certain animals and farms I’d like to keep up with. There’s nothing I love more than watching their latest videos with whomever will agree to watch them with me. I had never been to one of these sorts of farms in real life, and I have to say, I was ready for a relaxing time.

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A moodboard. (R-L, top to bottom:) houses with high-peaked roofs amongst high grass and shrubs, a forest ends in a hole opening into a blue-skyed clearing, chickens stride about on a house’s front lawn, a golden-brown pie sits on a wood block, a close-up of a bucket of red & green apples, a photo of a basket of fresh eggs, a dimly-lit bedroom featuring fairy lights and a skylight in its dormer ceiling, a better-lit loftlike bedroom featuring a bed with white sheets and a window revealing trees in the distance, another, this time large, bedroom whose bed faces a tall and wide window embedded into a dormer ceiling.

Farms –– I’m sure you never could have guessed this –– are, in fact, dirty! As in, there is a lot of dirt, and animal poop that is easily mistaken for dirt, all over the place. There are bugs, too; especially flies in the vicinity of the aforementioned poop. It didn’t fully register with me why Kayla and their mom were slathering themselves in bug spray before walking into the covered structure in which some bunnies and (separately) some small pigs lived. If you were to tell me, “There are bugs here,” I would have replied, “Of course there are!” But it isn’t until a several land on your legs as you attempt to replicate a pristine, loving Instagram video with your new pig friends that you fully accept it.

This situation was unsettling enough in the face of my romanticization of farm life, due both to my consumption of Instagram videos and from my love of cottagecore aesthetics. But it got worse: when we went to visit the goats (who were extremely pleased to see us!) we had the opportunity to spend time with them in their pen. We did. Goats, much like dogs, will get up on their hind legs and put their two fore legs on your thighs, hoping for pets and scratches. In their excitement, these goats managed to spread their poop not only into the ridges on the bottom of my Birkenstocks (and dangerously close to the synthetic straps) but also onto my thighs and the groin-area of my shorts. For all my excessive talk of wanting a farm, I booked it out of the pen after that, standing uncomfortably outside as Kayla and their mother continued to spend time with the goats, significantly less disturbed than I was. When they were done, we visited some kittens and cows. All that time, I was praying,  please let me transfer my consciousness out of this soiled body and into something cleaner. I can’t say I even really enjoyed the rest of the visit, as I was so distracted by the mess.

When it finally came time to clean ourselves off in the farm’s bathroom before driving back to their home for full showers, Kayla let me go in first* and I doused the entire lower half of my body in a mixture of soap, water, and hand sanitizer, all rubbed into my skin and clothing by a massive wad of paper towels. When we got back to their house, we had a delightful time hosing down our respective shoes. Then, finally, it was time for me to shower (first**).

And then I was clean. And mildly disturbed, because it didn’t simply feel like shit had gotten my my legs and shorts. It felt like it had gotten all over my “future,” simply by shoving its reality into my face. It has forced me to (re)consider whether or not I actually desire other things, like a garden (hard, hot work with unguaranteed results) or a tiny house (a truly limiting amount of space that would be more likely to drive me to a divorce than anything else). There has been much written on the potential harm that life lived through a camera lens or an Instagram account can be, especially now that people are using these as reasons to alter their physical forms. But significantly less has been said about the way that popular aesthetics have taken and run with our future plans, leading only to disappointment when we come up empty, frustrated, and unsatisfied.

…[S]ignificantly less has been said about the way that popular aesthetics have taken and run with our future plans, leading only to disappointment when we come up empty, frustrated, and unsatisfied.

A lot of people, especially fellow lesbians, have bought into the ideal-farm-future wholesale. It’s especially tempting because it offers an alternative to a society that is usually either hateful toward you or pretends you don’t exist. Perhaps also to help something or someone grow in ways we have been denied; to nurture other living things in the ways we wish we were nurtured. This is especially true, it seems, for lesbians who don’t want children –– but these dreams tempt us all.

I think I really had myself convinced that this was what I had always wanted, when in reality, what I wanted was the pristine version I had set out in my head. Visiting the farm animals with Kayla, I had assumed, would be a peak into my future: a partner; a farm; a sense of freedom derived from both. But as I stood, panicked in the bathroom, goat shit on my bare legs from eager goat feet, I realized that if this was living my future, I didn’t want it.

It’s impossible to tell the difference between a “real” dream (one that came “only” from inside one’s head) from a dream installed there by some outside source –– namely, because almost everything is a combination of those two. But it’s important to acknowledge outside and personal implications for those dreams, if realized, and to allow oneself to enjoy an ideal but know the reality is not for them. I’m still learning this.


*However lucky you think I am to have Kayla in my life, multiply that by a factor of ten.

**See above.

Recommended Reading: Beard hacks, finasteride hell, and 5 other things ‘trans masc’ folks might not know about.

This is an awesome perspective w/r/t doing transmasculinity. People don’t talk nearly enough about the physical challenges of top surgery, and instead focus on the pain and dysphoria of the “before” and the peace and ease of the “after”.

In conjunction with this, Finch does a great job of outlining the multiplicity of dysphoric experiences we may have as a way of rebutting truscum gender/diagnostic essentialisms. There is no pure, “prior” experience of dysphoria against which all other trans peoples’ feelings should be measured…instead, start thinking of dysphoria as a way to put words to your understanding of your body in the world as a tgnc person. There’s no “true trans” or “fake trans”, there’s just each one of us, and the limited language with which we need to (unfortunately) justify our lived experiences.

Let's Queer Things Up!

Every so often — especially in transitioning — I’ll have one of those “why didn’t someone tell me this sooner?” moments. Because we’re in the age of information, I think a lot of folks in the transgender community just assume we already have the information we need.

But in actuality? Many of us don’t.

I’ve found that when I share some of what’s surprised me, there’s always a decent number of trans people who are also hearing it for the first time. While transition is a process of discovery, I can’t help but feel that life would be a hell of a lot easier if we did a better job of sharing what we’ve learned with others.

This article, then, is a mishmash of some of the clever, enlightening, or flat-out surprising things that I would’ve appreciated being told at the beginning of my transition.

As someone who is genderqueer…

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